On May 25, Gregg Beratan, Andrew Pulrang, and Alice Wong, the co-partners of #CripTheVote, gave a talk to youth with disabilities at the “My Future, My Vote” summit on voting hosted by Yo! Disabled and Proud in Sacramento, CA.
Before the summit, we wrote a blog post, “Disability Advocacy and Twitter: Why Use It?” to encourage the participants to become politically active by using social media.
Here are a few excerpts from the presentation.
Why is it important to become politically aware and active as a young disabled person?
Andrew: A lot of the opportunities we have, and a lot of the barriers we face, are because of the way government policies are designed … locally, in states, and with the federal government. Most politicians want to help, but the problem is they actually don’t know how. We can help them help us! Who knows better than us what people with disabilities need?
It’s also important for political candidates to realize that disabled people vote, and that there are a lot of us. In the last big election, in 2012, 15.6 million disabled people voted. That’s a truly huge number, and yet there were over 3 million MORE disabled people who were all registered, but DIDN’T VOTE for some reason. So it could have been 18-19 million! We aren’t this tiny little minority that doesn’t count for anything … we are a potentially powerful group of voters that someday, candidates will have to pay attention to. But they won’t unless we keep voting and vote in even greater numbers.
Gregg: A famous disability rights activist Justin Dart Jr. once said “Vote as if your life depends on it, because it does.” voting may seem distant from the reality of our lives but it’s actually central to all our lives. This may be a case of preaching to choir because you have all chosen to take part in this summit, but who and what you vote for will shape everything from who you can marry to how and where you can live your life. In the near future the politicians you vote for or against will decide whether or not disabled people can live in the community or get forced into care facilities, they’ll decide whether we strengthen or weaken the ADA, They’ll determine what kind of health care we receive and They’ll shape the way disabled kids are educated. And there is no one they need to listen to more on these issues than all of you. The Disability community has always operated under the idea “Nothing About Us, Without Us”! Voting may be the single best way to insure that!
Why We Are Politically Active: Our Personal Stories
Andrew: My parents were always very interested in politics and elections. They taught me that voting was something that adult citizens did … they taught me it was a right but also a duty. My mom and dad certainly never for a second suggested that because I have disabilities I don’t have to vote or I can’t or shouldn’t vote! For me, voting itself isn’t the big exciting thing. I actually enjoy the campaign … reading about it, watching debates, listening to speeches, trying to figure out who I want to vote for, and who I want to support in other ways.
Alice: I like to talk about politics–I learn a lot by engaging with others. This is probably why I like social media because I can speak out, listen, and connect with a bunch of people who help me understand things better. I voted the year I turned 18 and at that time there was a lot of hope and enthusiasm for a certain Democrat in the 1990s. I felt like an adult when I voted–that it was one of my rights that I could exercise. I can’t drive or do certain things because of my disability, but I could definitely vote. I think local elections are even more important because we can immediately feel the impact or experience the changes in our communities. Politics isn’t some abstract concept–we all have a stake in the way we want things run and can participate in various ways. With so many attacks on voting rights that are ongoing today, such as voter ID laws and fewer polling places, voting is a right that needs to be defended and exercised. To me, that’s why I vote.
Gregg: For me voting at 18 was the first time I felt as though I had a say in just about anything. And this something I struggle to hold onto. Like everyone I’ve seen candidates I’ve supported lose and wondered what’s the point. But what I have come to realize is that the point isn’t always to get our way, but to be heard. In the disability community all of us have felt ignored at some point. As we said that’s one of the reason’s we started #CripTheVote, but voting means being heard and that has value even when the your choice doesn’t win. It may give others the strength to keep fighting on an issue, or tell a candidate that the there are people who agree with them and they should keep working for the things they believe in. There is a lot to dislike about our political system, but voting is something honest and true about it. Something we need to hold onto.
We invited the participants at the summit to use the #CripTheVote hashtag and share what they care about! Here are a few images/tweets: